Thursday, October 14, 2010
Simon Finn - Pass the Distance (1970)
For fans of: Pearls Before Swine, Linda Perhacs, Current 93
This album is dark and psychedelic, with a progressiveness a bit akin to if Can were to try their hand with an acid folk album. It's all barely being held together with a great voice and melodies that wander left and right. Several of these songs show a great power that's somewhat unusual for music of this type, "Jerusalem" being the most notable. It's not the most cohesive album, but it's got some great highs and nicely combines the psychedelia of the decade before this with the progressiveness that was just becoming popular. It also seems to capture an existential longing that few artists are able to match. - Matthew Foster
"Simon Finn's Pass the Distance is a legendary acid folk recording from the psychedelic era. Originally issued on the Mushroom label in 1970, the LP was embroiled in legal hassles and withdrawn from circulation. David Tibet of Current 93 became obsessed with it upon hearing a bootleg copy in 1995, and along with Simon and the Canadian Jnana imprint, has reissued it on Durtro as a CD. Finn, a Canadian native, made the record in 1969 in Vic Keary's Chalk Farm Studios with some new jamming mates including David Toop and Paul Burwell!
Pass the Distance is not a drippy peace and love record. It is a nocturnal, nightmarish album full of extremes as well as aesthetically beautiful textures and subtleties. Finn was obsessed with Christian themes (both redemptive and apocalyptic), history, the environment, and strange, oblique love songs. The centerpiece is the epic "Jerusalem." With maniacally strummed acoustic guitars, a swirling church organ, hand drums, and a muddy bassline, Finn iterates the vision of Christ as he walked through the city and was crucified by the very people who praised his name, and he equates Christ with the 1960s counterculture ideals. The crux of the song is the terror and rage that Christ would feel were he to return and be crucified in the current millennium by those who profess his name. Finn begins softly, sadly, and soon begins ranting and screaming as the music gathers in intensity and menace until it becomes utterly frightening. It is followed by "Where's Your Master Gone," a song about Satan, articulated with Toop's electric guitar lilting in the backdrop with Burwell popping the accents with his tables. Finn croons sweetly and confusingly about the transformation and redemption of Satan. And so it goes -- whether Finn is singing about love found and lost, sex, new age revelation, or Gnostic Christianity; there is in his gentleness, a darker, more sinister edge, one that can set one's teeth to grinding or make one see things in the dark. But there is also great tenderness and vulnerability as well, as evidenced by "Patrice," or "What a Day." Taken as a whole, it is creepy and beautiful and poetic and crazy and utterly wonderful. It is a maverick recording from a time far wilder and more imaginative than our own. The CD contains the ten-track original album, an unreleased single, and two completely unreleased studio tracks -- one of which is a recording of the first song Finn ever wrote. It has extensive liner notes by Finn, Toop, Tibet, and Keary. Pass the Distance is available from either Finn's or the Durtro web sites. While Pass the Distance may not be for everyone, those who dare to step out on to this ledge will be immeasurably rewarded." - AMG